Friday, June 15, 2007

Alter Christus

Tonight I'm in love with St. Francis of Assisi. It's hard not to love him. I know. We're use to seeing him in people's back yards or at the garden and nursery store. But lately I've been watching an awful lot of movies about him. There's the rather groovalicious Brother Sun Sister Moon. He's really cute in that one. And there's the music of Donovan. You get to see Francis cavorting about in fields of flowers a lot to this music by the guy who sang Mellow Yellow. I mean, honestly. The movie is like a Valium, until you get to the part with Pope Innocent, and the scene is actually pretty moving. Truthfully, I thought it was pretty cool. And some of the tunes were quite catchy. I 'm surprised they never released a soundtrack. But of course, I like St. Francis that much.

Of course, I'd watched Reluctant saint, before Brother Sun Sister Moon. That's a documentary. It was a little hard to take the musical version seriously when you see Francesco ravished and crazed by war and malaria in first version, and then skipping through the flowers in the other to hippie music in the second. But the same spirit is there. The same love. The same God hunger. The last movie I got starred, strangely, Mickey Rourke as Frances (Francesco). Ha! That's what I thought! I was still on a heavy duty deadline, so I didn't get to finish it, but I did get to see this scene where Francis was in the ruined church of San Damiano--the one where the crucifix spoke to him. In this particular film, he was asleep, and the cross was cradled in his arms. And I loved that. I loved that he'd embraced Christ in such a physical way. We all need to find our way of embracing Christ. To me, this image was like seeing the priests in the movie Luther laid out in the shape of a cross. In fact, the image from Luther moved me so much it has stayed with me. I used it in Zora and Nicky. I've used it for more than that!

Tonight I saw this lovely icon by one of my favorite iconographers, Catholic priest, Fr. William Hart McNichols. He wrote the most stunning meditation to go with it. I'd like to share it with you. Check out Fr. McNchols icons here. And maybe check out the movie Fransceco. You can get it for cheap here.

Here's Fr. Meditation:

Francis, I first saw you in my little Book of Saints pictured beneath the cross of your dying Lord. Oh, this was long before I knew you graced the bird baths and fountains of every yard and public place as the Holy Fool. And this was long before I saw you cradle the tiny Child in your arms, or tame the snarling grey wolflong, before I knew you as the veritable tree for your precious winged sisters and animals of every pattern and stripe.

I first saw you 'neath the bitter tree locked in embrace with the crucified God who bent down for your tender comfort and most gentle love. Later I was told you stretched your scarcely visible frame to cover even the hopeless and the lepers of your day. And now I see, now I know why He flew to La Verna wrapt in resurrected wings to transfigure, to share the glory, with the one who had spared himself none of the suffering.

This icon of the "Alter Christus," Francis of Assisi with his suffering Lord, is based on the beloved paining by the Spanish Master Murillo and was commissioned by a doctor in New Jersey working with People with AIDS.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Hold on to your Lord, even if His blood drenches your side. He will surely hold on to you. And perhaps, like he did with Francis, one day, when you need Him too, He will fly to you in your great suffering.

I love you. I truly do.


Candy said...

I also love St. Francis. I'm guilty of having him in my garden. I love him in my garden. I'm so glad to know more about him, that he clung to the crucifix Jesus and that the crucifix Jesus flew to him in his suffering. I need to cling more to Jesus. This was a timely reminder. I think I'll check out some of those movies. I love you, Mair. I truly do.

ragamuffin diva said...

Nothing wrong with St. Francis in the garden, Candy, as long as we know why he's there in the first place. I'd love a St. Francis in my garden if I had one.

I'm pending a possible move, very soon, to a place I never thought I'd have to go back to. I'll need my beloved saint to stand with me if I go, even if I don't have a garden!

Have mercy!

Thanks for your comment, fellow Francis lover.

Here's another bit of Mair trivia and newsy news. I'm crazy for stigmatics, too. One of my next novels is going to be about a stigmatic, only it will be set in contemporary times.

Thanks for the love, sis. You know it goes right back at you.

A real monk said...

Whoah! William Hart McNichols is not a monk. He is a Catholic priest who belonged for a number of years to the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) founded by St. Ignatius Loyola to engage with the world in the name of Christ. Definitely not monks. Father McNichols, no longer a Jesuit, now serves as an assistant parish priest while continuing to paint splendid icons.

While some monks are priests (Benedictines, Cistercians, Carthusians), not all priests are monks. Monks live in monasteries (also called abbeys or priories). The thrust of their life is the solemn celebration of the praise of God seven times a day and persevering meditation on the Word of God in a community governed by a Rule and an Abbot. Monks also seek to practice hospitality, humility, mercy, and patience. The outstanding trait of monastic life is peace.

Saint Francis was not a monk. He wanted to be called a Lesser Brother, a Friar Minor. The followers of Saint Francis are not monks; they are friars, a word derived from frater, the latin for brother. Friars engage with the world, bringing the Gospel of Christ to the marketplace.

ragamuffin diva said...

Thank you so much for your enlightening comments, real monk. I corrected my error in my post.

Again, many thanks. Forgive me for my ignorance of these matters. I leave links so that readers can check out Fr. McNichol's page and work for themselves for reasons such as this.

Know that correction is always welcome here, especially when done with such love and humility.


Danica/Dream said...

Wow, how awesome! I have to be honest, I have no idea about many of the saints or why St. Francis is in people's gardens, although I do love his quotes. These are beautiful pictures and I love your meditation to go along with it.